A church is alive and it will grow. No matter it is past, present or future, a church should be a place which is full of God's presence, glory and plan.
While serving the church, I have learned a lot from working with some elderly co-workers, especially from aged pastors who have served in the church for nearly 40-50 years. I listened to their touching testimonies of countless times of grace in times of trouble and the miracles that helped them overcome difficulties.
In about 2016, I followed an old pastor to visit Northwest China. I benefited remarkably from the whole experience. The simplicity of the pastor's lifestyle gave me a different view of service. On our journey, he also mentioned to me the situation of his church, the groups who serve in the church, and what things were like in the 1990s.
The pastor told me that his church gatherings at that time took mainly the form of “under the lamps” (farming during the day and gathering in the evening) and open-air evangelism. At that time, there were many people who believed in Jesus. Believers experienced many miracles and wonders. They were cured of diseases and unclean spirits. At that time, the number of believers was increasing day by day. Each week the “under the lamps” gathering could not accommodate all those who wanted to attend. When preaching in the open air, almost everyone in the whole village was present, as adults and children were curious about the way of the Lord.
At that time, the environment for the development of the church was not environment was not good. There were external resistance and obstruction, forcing them to go to another place to preach the gospel. However, at that time, all the service staff were never afraid of the environment. Although there were obstacles, the number of God's families was increasing day by day. On every two to three days of the gatherings, many brothers and sisters would give some flour and vegetables to provide food for each gathering.
Although the number of believers was increasing fast, the conflicts and obstacles were also increasing. Sometimes a gathering ended in a hurry without a proper ending so as to avoid unnecessary troubles and permitting the believers to hold future services. The old pastor said: The revival of the Church needs external pressure and persecution because it can arouse people's confidence in times of crisis and encourage them to rely on God in every possible way.
The elderly pastor also told me that the pastors at that time were not equipped with proper theological training but rather followed the pastors of the earlier generation, and with the passage of time, they were able to preach and formally set foot on the threshing floor where they served. Although conditions were scarce and books were limited at that time, they were very happy in their service. Sometimes they taught the whole day and were very tired in the evening when they had to prepare new lesson plans, but there was always joy in their hearts. Moreover, it was also a joy to be matched with fellow workers. In the process of serving, especially when facing many people who were eager to learn, the pastors became excited and enthusiastic and were eager to share all the truths they understood.
The pastor also mentioned that later on some brothers and sisters bought three-wheeled cycles designed to be used in the countryside. They were quite happy to use these for transportation instead of walking to church gathering places. Eventually, bicycles became more popular and the church allocated themto the pastors, which facilitated their work.
The reality is that in the past, general conditions in the rural areas were not good. Roads were in disrepair. Sometimes, when it rained, tarpaulins had to be used to cover the believers during their meetings. When there were many people, there could be leaks. However, the old pastor said that as long as brothers and sisters got together at that time everyone was very happy.
As the pastor recalled these days and shared them with me, he sighed repeatedly. He said that now the times had changed and although conditions were different (better), there were more and more problems in the Church and people's hearts.
When we understand what a church is, we will strive to dedicate ourselves. When we understand what the gospel is, we will strive to shoulder the mission.
- Translated by Charlie Li